Shapes + colors = stimulate inherent emotions — the magic formula Hans Christian Øren, of Oh Yeah Studio, was the driving force that brought Hans to where he is today. So passionate in wanting to push himself further—we think he’s nailed the equation! Han’s offers up some wonderful words of wisdom on how to work hard to get to success.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? I grew up in a industrial town so creativity was not part of my life for many years. What lead me into design was pretty random. I knew I wanted to create and had a vision of making the world a better place, but I wasn’t actually good at anything. I started writing, taking photographs and thinking of making movies and music, but didn’t feel I had the talent and didn’t have any friends that were interested in these things. After many years without doing anything after high school, I tried out a web design and graphic design class in 2002. This was the first time I felt that this was something I managed. I got good feedback and grades so went on studied graphic design.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? I started to fall in love with design when I studied graphic design in Oslo and visual communication at Central st. Martins in London. When I studied I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t satisfied enough. I learnt about type, colours, grids, rules, concepts, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to dig deeper. I was searching for answers, or a formula, so I could create images with only shapes and colors to stimulate inherent emotions all humans are. I wanted the viewer to feel one or more of the inherent emotions all humans have, like sadness, disgust, hate, happiness and so on. Emotions are a necessary part of life, affecting how you feel, how you behave and how you think. So I didn’t actually fall in love with design, but how visual work could change a person’s way of thinking.
I worked freelance after school and got my first design job in 2007 and I loved it. I worked day and night for many years and wanted to do everything that could help me make better work. I was very curious and that is probably why I have worked with digital design, graphic design, motion, illustration and art. One of my first freelance jobs was making Identity for a Michelin Star restaurant, whinebottle design and a campaign website for Burton.
Some of my first projects in my design agency was websites, catalogues, posters and identities. They were really good jobs, great people and good projects, but I was very stubborn and had my own vision so I wasn’t the best colleague at that time. I quit after one year in my 3 first jobs. Tips for not to do things. Be nice and work hard 🙂
Oh Yeah Studio was established in 2009 by me and partner Christina, it has developed from a hobby-project into what it is today, a multidisciplinary design studio. First it was just a playground where we could be creative without clients and we called it Oh Yeah Studio, doing after dinner. This was a place where we could do whatever we wanted without other people telling you to ’change that’ and ’do that’. First we had just exhibitions and such, but as we developed our own style and expression it became clear that we both wanted to collaborate and see what we could get out of merging our styles and ideas. After a while we got some attention because of the artistic approach and worked with international clients after two years.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. I work as a designer in my own company Oh Yeah Studio, but I also work as a teacher at Kristiania college and work as Creative Director in Bekk Consulting. My aim is to seduce, inspire and create emotional responses to all visual projects. I work widely within the design disciplines. In addition I also work with personal projects, such as exhibitions, graphical prints, posters and murals. My clients are Nike, Adobe, Unicef, Red Cross, Adidas, ESPN and Burton.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate? The qualities I look for is a combination of curiosity, playfulness, uniqueness with good craftsmanship. I also look for students that have different qualities or superpower skills. The students that impress me are students that have great concepts and inspiring visual work, but also can do something more like do motion or code.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice? I work sometimes as a teacher at Kristiania College in Oslo. This inspire me a lot and keeps me up to date with what is happening today and how the young students behave and expect. My way of thinking is human, I take time with the students and allow them to grow by making mistakes. I am not a strict teacher, but expect them to do their best. If they aren’t the best designers today, it do not mean that they will be in the future. The secret to success is hard work and not talent. If you work hard you will always catch the fish as David Lynch puts it “ideas is like fish. You don’t make the fish, you catch the fish. Trillions of ideas floating around waiting to be caught”. To be a teacher gives me great joy and inspiration. I try to be a good mentor and try to make them trust me. I really want them to do well and want them to know that I’m not doing this for the money, but for the future of design.
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others? My style is a result of many years of experimenting in school and in personal projects. It has been lots of mistakes and many years of working 15 hour days and weekends. I looked at it as a hobby so I wasn’t tired, I was inspired because I just wanted to create and evolve. After many years of hard work I suddenly found something. I combined surrealistic drawings inspired from Dali, abstract art inspired from constructivism and El Lissitzky, the thoughts of Freud and my love for experimental typography. A big soup of experiments led to the style I have today. I liked it, clients liked it, perfect combination 🙂
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 1. Collaborate. It is good to have your own ideas of how things should be, but it doesn’t mean that everybody else’s are wrong. I was pretty stubborn for many years and this resulted in no one wanting to work with me, including my girlfriend. I quit three jobs and I’m still pretty embarresed about this. I learned from my mistakes and this has resulted in more projects and great colleages. Collaborate is the key to success.
2. Focus on the message. Today, we are bombarded with impressions and messages. One may see the human brain for a big filtering machine that processes important or unimportant information from when we get up until we go to bed. How the brain scans images and information is essential to get a reaction. People consume increasing amounts of information in in different the forms. In this information overloaded daily life it’s a challenge to make a different and unique visible language that hits the audience. We have to convince the reader that what we have is important. Trendy design won’t help you. Make time to research and concept development. Don’t just start with the design, this will result in not communicating the right message to the right target group. Designers get so much inspiration from blogs, social media and books and it is easy to get inspired. It is important that you don’t copy the trend and always try to make something unique. It is hard, but it will make you stand out among everyone else. I love how James Hurst put it “Be true to who you are. If you can keep the spirit alive of doing shit you love, you won’t fall into the trap of trying to be the same as everyone else.”
3. Professional clients. Make sure you work with clients that are professional that respect your work. I have worked with many clients that don’t respect our field or don’t understand it. This means that you have to educate them and make them understand the value of what we do.
4. Ask for a brief. Always ask for a brief. I didn’t do this in my early days and that resulted in a bad result and in the end disappointing the client.
5. Play and experiment. A perfect place to do this is to make your own personal project. It is these project where I have evolved the most, because I have the freedom to make anything I want. I can use my time and come up with as many ideas I like before I’m satisfied. I have done lots of personal projects that have made me a better designer, but also helped me get clients like Nike and Adobe.